Calling all Cabernet lovers and wine aficionados alike! I recently experienced tasting the Vineyard 511 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and I have to tell you about it. When my father-in-law asked what I thought of the wine, I told him that it was inspiring.
As a wine educator, I’ve tasted a lot of quality wines. Yet only a handful have managed to evoke a sense of inspiration due to aromas and palate. This particular wine proudly earns its place among those select few.
Can a scent or taste be inspiring? Considering my profession and passion for food and wine, I don’t think it’s far fetched. When I was taking in this wine’s nose and bouquet it was almost as if the gears in my brain started turning with new ideas. So what sets this wine, and those few other inspirational wines, apart? The craftsmanship of a winemaker and terroir of the vineyard.
The Creators Behind the Wine
I’ve had the opportunity to meet the couple behind 511, Ed and Irene. Tasting their wines in their beautiful tasting room. Back in 2019, I was in Napa Valley for a Wine Professionals Summit. My father-in-law had met Ed and Irene during a vacation in Belize (of all places!). A few months later, when he heard I was going to Napa he mentioned I should look them up. We scheduled a tasting and it was one of the most memorable tastings I’ve had to date.
I am once again inspired today by Ed and Irene’s labors, along with their winemaker, the talented Rob Lloyd. Rob Lloyd began his career at La Crema in Sonoma, after which he moved on to Rombauer as Assistant Winemaker. He subsequently began is own consultant company working with vineyard owners, such as Ed and Irene, to create incredible wines.
The First Tasting
During that tasting in 2019, we tried their Chardonnay (arguably my favorite Napa Chardonnay), Pinot Noir (could rival some in Burgundy), and the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. All the wines were exceptional.
Today I want to talk to you about the 2015 Cabernet. I still have my tasting notes from that day, and I remember the Cabernet being lovely. I wrote that the fruit was ripe and bright, the acid refreshing to balance out the alcohol. The tannins (from 30 months in barrel and those naturally present in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) were grippy at that time, but not in an uncomfortable way.
A Testament to Age
The Vineyard 511 2015 Cabernet was great back in 2019, no doubts about it. When I had the wine for the second time, a week ago, it had evolved into something much more. Now it was something to seriously mull over and contemplate.
This is a testament to aging wine properly, and what a wine can become when aged. If you have the patience to buy and age a recent vintage, or if you’re able to buy an already aged bottle from a winery, aged wine is an incredibly rewarding experience. The difference between 2019 and now, is immense. Those bright and ripe fruits have given way to dried and jammy notes. The grippy tannins softened and smoothed.
In 2019, this wine was akin to ‘the life of the party,’ vibrant and exciting, drawing everyone like a magnet. However, in 2023, it has transformed into the ‘wise scholarly’ type. Much like a wise teacher quietly seated in the corner, whose presence hushes the gathering pondering its wisdom. Indeed, this is a wine to savor and ruminate on.
The near decade of aging that this wine has undergone has done it proud. It serves as a remarkable demonstration of two things. First, the winemaker’s craftsmanship and second, the intrinsic quality of the grapes harvested from the Diamond Mountain Site.
The Vineyard Site: Diamond Mountain
Diamond Mountain is an incredible site for winemaking, especially for Cabernet Sauvignon. The elevation, which is higher than most in Napa, allows for less fog cover but cooler temperatures. This means more sun exposure, at lower temperatures which results in long hang times for the grapes on the vine. The longer the grapes stay on the vine, the more concentrated flavors they get. Volcanic soils also contribute to a great structure and boldness in wines produced here.
Diamond Mountain can create the perfect grapes for age-worthy wines. As wine ages, the fruit, tannin, and color begin to fade. As a result, secondary and tertiary flavors come out. Without enough tannin or acid, the wine falls flat. Without enough complexity from a combination of fruit, earth, and wood flavors, the wine would be muted after aging. The 2015 grapevines were primed for creating an age-worthy wine right from planting. Furthermore, while this wine is excellent now, it could keep aging for another few years.
After harvest, Rob Lloyd, Ed and Irene, and their desired taste profiles go to work. Lloyd has expertly used small French oak barrels to age the wine for 30 months. This isn’t just a simple decision, as oak interacts differently with every vintage. There has to be enough structure and flavor in the wine to stand up to all that oak.
Upon encountering this wine, it’s impossible not to be captivated by the beautifully balanced bouquet that graces both the nose and palate. The initial impression offers bold and inviting notes of cocoa, dark chocolate, toasted almond, dried black and red cherry, creating a harmonious symphony of flavors that dance at the forefront of the experience.
As one delves deeper into the wine’s character, it unfolds into a palate that includes subtle hints of dry earth, fragrant thyme, cigar, and cinnamon all gently intertwined with the embrace of oak.
This wine truly began to show it’s flavors around 45 minutes after opening. For anyone looking for advice on how to decant a wine – the best thing to do is open and take a quick taste. If the flavors seem muted or off – let it sit for another 15-20 minutes. Taste again. Repeat doing this until you feel that the wine has developed fully.
I do not recommend aerators as they are quite harsh on wines – ironically they are especially harsh on the delicate aged wines that they are meant for. Instead, use a classic decanter, or simply pour yourself a glass of the wine and let it sit in the glass.
In conclusion, the Vineyard 511 2015 Cabernet stands as proof to the enduring allure of wine. It is a testament to the dedication of its creators and the promise of a remarkable harvest. This wine is an embodiment of inspiration, and for those fortunate enough to experience it, it serves as a reminder that wine, at its finest, is a source of endless wonder and delight.
So, if you’re looking for a fabulous and special wine to give as a gift this holiday season, look no further than the 2015 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon. I have no affiliate contract with 511, I simply truly enjoy their wines and wanted to share them with you.
I also recently learned that only 110 cases of this wine were made, it was a low yielding vintage, so snap them up while you can!
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